Swiss tar­gets PSG boss, ex-FIFA exec in World Cup rights probe


Swiss prose­cu­tors have opened a crim­i­nal cor­rup­tion probe tar­get­ing the head of Paris Sain­tGer­main foot­ball club Nasser Al-Khe­laifi and dis­graced for­mer FIFA ex­ec­u­tive Jerome Val­cke over the sale of me­dia rights for up­com­ing World Cups.

The Swiss at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice (OAG) said the probe opened in March and cen­ters on al­le­ga­tions in­clud­ing bribery, fraud, crim­i­nal mis­man­age­ment and forgery of a doc­u­ment.

Prose­cu­tors in­di­cated that AlKhe­laifi, a pow­er­ful Qatari sports ex­ec­u­tive who is also head of beIN me­dia, was un­der sus­pi­cion only for ac­tions taken as the head of the sports me­dia group, which op­er­ates on five con­ti­nents.

The Qatar broad­caster is­sued a state­ment deny­ing any wrong­do­ing while con­firm­ing French au­thor­i­ties had raided the com­pany’s Paris of­fices fol­low­ing a Swiss re­quest.

“beIN Me­dia Group re­futes all ac­cu­sa­tions made by OAG. The com­pany will fully co­op­er­ate with the au­thor­i­ties and is con­fi­dent as to the fu­ture de­vel­op­ments of this in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” it said in a state­ment.

PSG, which grabbed head­lines in Au­gust for its record sign­ing of Brazil­ian su­per­star Ney­mar, is not im­pli­cated in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Val­cke, who was Sepp Blat­ter’s right-hand man at FIFA, de­nied the al­le­ga­tions in an in­ter­view with French sports news­pa­per

L’Equipe on Fri­day. “They say there have been pay­ments from Nasser to me in re­turn for the sale of rights at a pref­er­en­tial rate. But I’ve re­ceived noth­ing from Nasser,” he told the pa­per.

“There has never been an ex­change be­tween Nasser and me. Never.”

Val­cke left the Swiss at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice on Thurs­day evening af­ter be­ing in­ter­viewed as a sus­pect and “dis­putes all the al­le­ga­tions”, his lawyer told AFP.

“He came out free, there is no co­er­cive mea­sure against him nor bail pay­ment,” Stephane Cec­ca­ldi said.

The OAG said there was a third sus­pect in the case but iden­ti­fied him only as “a busi­ness­man in the sports rights sec­tor.”

Prose­cu­tors said they had ev­i­dence in­di­cat­ing that Val­cke “ac­cepted un­due ad­van­tages” from the busi­ness­man “in con­nec­tion with the award of me­dia rights for cer­tain coun­tries at the FIFA World Cups in 2018, 2022, 2026 and 2030.”

The Swiss at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice also al­leged that Val­cke had il­le­gal deal­ings with “Nasser AlKhe­laifi in con­nec­tion with the award of me­dia rights for cer­tain coun­tries at the FIFA World Cups in 2026 and 2030.”

The 2018 and 2022 World Cups will be played in Rus­sia and Qatar re­spec­tively, while the 2026 and 2030 tour­na­ments have not yet been awarded.

Val­cke, a French na­tional who also holds South African cit­i­zen­ship, was sacked from his post as FIFA’s sec­re­tary gen­eral last year amid the cor­rup­tion scan­dal that brought world foot­ball’s gov­ern­ing body to its knees.

He be­came the sub­ject of a sep­a­rate Swiss cor­rup­tion probe in March 2016 over crim­i­nal mis­man­age­ment dur­ing his FIFA ten­ure.

The pre­vi­ously dis­closed al­le­ga­tions trig­gered his dis­missal from FIFA and a 10-year ban from soc­cer.

Val­cke was in Switzer­land this week ar­gu­ing an ap­peal at the Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion for Sport in Lau­sanne, where he was try­ing to over­turn the ban.

While Val­cke was be­ing ques­tioned, au­thor­i­ties in France, Greece, Italy and Spain searched prop­er­ties as part of the probe, Swiss prose­cu­tors said, adding that no sus­pect in the case was cur­rently in cus­tody.

Un­like Val­cke, whose ca­reer in world foot­ball is gen­er­ally seen as fin­ished, Al-Khe­laifi’s promi­nence in the sport has soared in re­cent months, es­pe­cially fol­low­ing the Ney­mar sign­ing.

PSG paid Barcelona a record €222 mil­lion (US$264 mil­lion) for Ney­mar and Al-Khe­laifi vowed that the ac­qui­si­tion would bring the Cham­pi­ons League ti­tle to the Paris side within two years.

PSG was bought by Qatar Sports In­vest­ments in 2011.

The new probe is the lat­est in a com­plex web of scan­dals that has rocked world foot­ball over the last two and a half years.

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